The Cane Corso is a truly superb sight as well as an intimidating one! These dogs are aptly described as majestic by breeders and owners alike.
When you first meet a Cane Corso, you might not be able to name the dog breed. But you will definitely know you are in the presence of canine royalty. The coat color, no matter how glorious, can often feel like an afterthought at this point.
But when you are first picking out your Cane Corso puppy, you want to check every box off your list. And that process starts with knowing what your options are. What coat colors are common and rare for Cane Corso dogs? Let’s find out!
Cane Corso Colors
The official American Kennel Club (AKC) Cane Corso breed standard states that the Cane Corso coat comes in five approved colors and one approved color pattern.
The five coat colors are gray, red, black, chestnut and fawn. The one coat pattern is brindle.
However, some breeders also breed Cane Corsos with other coat colors. This is also where breeding for coat color over puppy health can cause some problems. Read on to learn more about these.
Learn About the Link Between Cane Corso Color and Life Expectancy
In this YouTube video, an experienced Cane Corso owner explains the research-backed link between coat color and lifespan.
These are the kinds of important factors to consider before you prioritize Cane Corso colors over dog health. And while there are always exceptions, taking a health-first approach to choosing your Cane Corso puppy is best for you and your new puppy.
Understanding Cane Corso Color Genes
A full discussion of the complexities of canine coat color genetics could (and does) fill books!
But for our purposes here, what you need to know is that all dogs have two color pigments: eumelanin and phaeomelanin. As VCA Animal Hospital highlights, umelanin is the pigment that produces black and phaeomelanin is the pigment that produces red/yellow.
So if all dogs only carry two pigments, or types of melanin, then how do dogs end up being so many different colors?
As Cane Corso Lux breeder points out, the reason the Cane Corso can be red or black but also gray, brown, fawn and chestnut is because of the actions of other genes in the canine genome.
In fact, while canine researchers have long since sequenced the entire canine genome, there is still much more to learn about how different genes interact with each other and produce the full spectrum of dog coat colors and color patterns.
This is also why so many dog breeds have common and rare coat colors. The common colors are the coat colors that breeders expect and understand how to breed for.
The Risk of Trying to Breed for Rare Cane Corso Colors
The rare Cane Corso coat colors are the coat colors that contain genetic mysteries researchers are still trying to understand. In other words, the breeder was trying to breed for one coat color but got another coat color they didn’t expect.
This isn’t necessarily a bad thing if a single puppy in a litter pops out with an unusual color coat. This can happen sometimes because there is still so much to learn about canine genetics.
But when a Cane Corso breeder decides to try to replicate the rare color or color pattern by deliberating breeding together dogs that carry those genes, this is when puppy health can be negatively affected.
Because the breeder is trying to prioritize genes that naturally occur quite rarely in the Cane Corso genome, essentially the breeder is trying to tamper with how the Cane Corso genome is naturally designed to work.
Another concern is that whenever a breeder decides to highlight a less common gene, this often also means less is known about how that gene works and what else it might be responsible for.
This is exactly why some dogs with so-called rare coat colors may also have more serious health issues. Examples of such health issues may include congenital blindness, deafness, neurological problems, temperament troubles and more.
Be very careful to research the breeder’s background, credentials and reputation in the Cane Corso dog breeding community before choosing a breeder that specializes in rare Cane Corso coat colors.
A List of All Common and Rare Cane Corso Colors
So let’s get down to business. In this section, you will learn about all of the common Cane Corso coat colors as well as the so-called rare Cane Corso colors.
Black Cane Corso
The first thing to know is that there is one Cane Corso coat color that occurs with much more frequency than all the other coat colors combined.
That coat color is black. This holds true even when neither Cane Corso parent dog for a given litter has the black coat color!
As BMC Genetics journal explains, black coats on the Cane Corso dog are so common that a whopping 71.6 percent of Cane Corso puppies are born with the genes to produce a black adult coat.
But what other Cane Corso coat colors exist? Let’s find out now.
Gray Cane Corso
The gray Cane Corso coat color is another common coat color in this breed. Gray is included in the Cane Corso breed standard as an accepted color for show ring purposes.
The gray Cane Corso coat is not as easy to produce as the black coat color. Eumelanin is the color pigment that produces gray. In its pure state eumelanin appears as black.
So another gene has to interact with eumelanin to dilute it, or turn it lighter to a gray.
However don’t confuse the standard gray Cane Corso coat color with the much rarer blue (slate) coat color you will read about here in a later section. Normal gray is still considered fairly common in the Cane Corso genome.
Fawn Cane Corso
Fawn is often referred to as a color, but actually fawn is a range of colors in the Cane Corso dog breed. Fawn can be quite dark or very light. At the darker end of the spectrum fawn looks more like a tan or brown.
At the lightest end of the spectrum, fawn resembles a cream shade.
Fawn is produced when eumelanin is affected by the K locus gene. This gene controls for black, brindle and fawn.
Red Cane Corso
The red Cane Corso coat is also another common coat color that is the breed standard finds acceptable for show ring purposes. However, finding a true red Cane Corso dog is still relatively rare in the breed.
Red is the result of the E locus gene interacting with phaeomelanin, the color pigment that produces the red/yellow spectrum of coat colors.
Depending on the complexities of an individual puppy’s gene pool, a red Cane Corso may be very pale or quite dark. At the pale end, the coat might appear as a champagne with the merest red tinge. At the dark end, the coat might look like a burnished dark wood.
Blue Cane Corso
How can a dog’s coat be blue? Is that even possible? In the world of canine color genetics, the word blue actually means blue-gray or slate. This is a gray color with a bluish tinge, as apposed to a violet or lilac tinge.
The blue Cane Corso coat is truly rare and is difficult to breed for. A Cane Corso that has a gray-slate coat has inherited two copies of a recessive gene called the D (dilute) locus.
Liver Cane Corso
In the world of dog coat colors, liver is also known as brown or chocolate depending on the shade.
In the world of Cane Corso dog breeders, liver is a non-standard coat color that is disallowed for show ring purposes.
As The Cane Corso Association of America (CAAA) explains, the reason the breed standard discourages certain colors is because they require emphasizing less common genes.
As we mentioned in an earlier section in this article, any time a breeder deliberately emphasizes less common genes, there is a risk of triggering other undesirable gene actions that may lead to temperament or health problems.
And while there is nothing necessarily wrong when a puppy occasionally pops out with a less common coat color, trying to breed whole litters of rare colored Cane Corso puppies is discouraged.
There is just too much still not known about how all the genes in the Cane Corso gene pool interact to tinker with the genes in this way. It could end up producing puppies with serious health problems.
Isabella Cane Corso
Isabella is a term that is used to describe a gray or brown coat with a lilac tinge to it. Isabella also produces a color spectrum that ranges from very light straw to tawny.
Steer clear of breeders who deliberately breed for the Isabella coat color or straw, since this color has a higher incidence of skin issues and alopecia (hair loss).
Sometimes very light Isabella Cane Corso dogs are mistaken for white because they have pinkish skin, noses and eyelids. However, their eyes are usually blue or green rather than pink.
Steer clear of any Cane Corso breeder that advertises white Cane Corsos.
Fomentino Cane Corso
Fomentino essentially translates to mean a blue/fawn coat color.
There is a lot of controversy surrounding the fomentino Cane Corso coat color. Some breeders believe this is the straw recessive coat color that can trigger serious skin and coat health issues.
Other breeders believe that the very light cream or wheat/straw Fomentino coat color arises because of an earlier crossbreeding in the Cane Corso’s breed lineage.
What is agreed-upon is that fomentino is also a dilute coat color, which means the puppy has inherited two recessive coat color genes from the parents. As with other light Cane Corso coat colors, fomentino can come with a higher risk of skin issues.
Brindle Cane Corso
The brindle Cane Corso coat color is not actually a coat color at all. Rather, brindle is a color pattern.
The K locus gene controls for the brindle color pattern.
Dog Coat Colour Genetics states that brindle most commonly appears when the dog’s undercoat is brown or red and there are darker black stripes overlaying that.
Phaeomelanin (brown/red) is the predominant coat color with a brindle pattern. Eumelanin (black) is the secondary coat color that produces the stripes for contrast.
Brindle is sometimes also called mosaicism. Canine geneticists still don’t completely understand how to test for brindle genes. But brindle is predominant in the Cane Corso genome which is why it is much more common in Cane Corsos than for some other dog breeds.
The brindle color pattern in Cane Corsos most frequently occurs as black brindle, chestnut brindle or gray brindle. Of these, the black brindle is by far the most common, with gray brindle being second.
Chestnut brindle, which is a variant of red, is considered relatively rare yet still standard in Cane Corsos.
The brindle coat color pattern frequently includes a very small amount of white, either as small spots or as individual hairs.
When Cane Corso puppies are very young, it can sometimes be difficult to predict exactly what their adult coat color will be. Some brindle puppies actually look black and get mis-registered as such by the breeder.
What is most important to know about the brindle Cane Corso coat pattern is that each brindle pattern is completely unique – like a fingerprint. There will never be two brindle Cane Corso dogs that look exactly alike.
This is part of what makes brindle a desirable coat color pattern in the Cane Corso. It is hard to pass up the chance to have a one-of-a-kind coat color in your Cane Corso!
The Link Between Cane Corso Colors and Puppy Health
So now you are much more familiar with both the standard Cane Corso colors and also those coat colors that are considered rare or non-standard according to the official breed standard.
But how does coat color predict how healthy your Cane Corso puppy will be?
Vetstreet highlights the importance of pre-screening Cane Corso parent pairs for genetic health issues before allowing a mating.
This is especially important to verify if you are considering purchasing or adopting a Cane Corso with a less-common or rare coat color.
While running pre-mating health tests on the parent dogs may not guarantee that your puppy won’t have any health problems, it definitely rules out heritable health issues passed down from parent dog to puppies.
The Cane Corso dog breed is listed in the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals’ Canine Health Information Center (OFA-CHIC) health database. This database keeps a list of breed-specific genetic health issues.
The OFA-CHIC database states that Cane Corso puppies can inherit these serious health issues:
– Hip dysplasia.
– Elbow dysplasia.
– Cardiac issues.
– Eye issues.
– Patellar luxation.
– Autoimmune thyroiditis.
Sovrano Cane Corso breeders explains that dilute coat colors, and especially blue-coated Cane Corsos, can have a higher incidence of serious skin issues.
Dermatitis, color dilution alopecia (hair loss), skin wrinkling, skin allergies and follicular dysplasia have all been linked to dilute coat colors in the Cane Corso dog breed.
It is important to understand that there currently are no pre-screening genetic health tests that can predict whether a puppy with a rare coat color will develop any of these issues.
Sometimes the puppy will start having skin troubles early in life, but it is more common to see a Cane Corso puppy grow up and then develop skin problems or allergies later in life.
Which Cane Corso Colors Have the Longest Life Expectancy
The Open Veterinary Journal reports that there is one Cane Corso coat color that has a longer life expectancy than all the others.
That coat color is black brindle, followed by brindle. Black brindle Cane Corsos live about 10.3 years and brindle Cane Corsos live about 10.13 years.
Compare that with the life expectancy of male adult Cane Corsos of other colors, which is 9.25, and of other female adult Cane Corsos, which is 9.33 years.
So black brindle or brindle Cane Corso adult dogs live more than a year longer than all the other Cane Corso dogs that have different coat colors.
This is part of the reason why it can be important to breed to a dog’s genetic strengths rather than trying to manipulate the Cane Corso genome to produce rarer coat colors.
Many breeders who do this will do so just to be able to market their dogs as “rare colors” and thus charge a higher price per puppy.
The only way to save yourself from preventable heartache and your puppy from preventable suffering is to be sure the Cane Corso breeder you select puts puppy health above all else.